Questions for Patricia Marx
The former Saturday Night Live writer talks about her novel Starting From Happy and how to draw lingerie.
Slate: As The New Yorker's shopping correspondent, what are you coveting this fall?
Marx: More closet space. I have so much crap and now I have a boyfriend living with me and we have so much crap and nowhere to put it. I actually have not been shopping for a while. I just did grocery stores for The New Yorker, and now I'm doing retirement coaching.
Slate: What is retirement coaching?
Marx: The problem with doing a story is you usually think it's really hackneyed and old and then people go, "What? I never heard of that?" It's just this semi-bogus thing where you hire a friend/mother/sports trainer that will help you retire, except the problem is that no one retires anymore. The person helps you not retire, really. It's for the generation who had help doing everything. They can't even play golf without a tutor.
Slate: I know you were the first woman ever on the Harvard Lampoon. How sick are you of answering questions about being a woman in comedy?
Marx: I'm not really so sick about it, but I never have a very good answer. It seems like it's not altogether different from being a guy. When I started out I was on a lot of TV shows with guys. And I was sort of the token girl, which worked for me a little bit, too. But it seems like women's comedy and men's comedy have met in the middle and are not terribly different anymore. I have nothing really that enlightening to say.
Slate: Some commentators believe that Bridesmaids has been a game changer for women in comedy. Have you seen it? Do you agree?
Marx: I have to see it. I've heard great stuff about it. I gather it's kind of a Judd Apatow movie about women. I don't know if it would be a game changer. They're still going to do the other kind of movies [about women]. I think that everybody's kind of gravitated down together. In theory I don't know if it's such a wonderful thing that we can be as raunchy as men. Not that I have anything against raunchiness. But it's not the ultimate goal.
Slate: Speaking of raunchiness, I've read several interviews where you talk about your time as a writer on Saturday Night Live. You always talk about the free-flowing Diet Coke—not actual coke, which is SNL's reputation. Was the place not that debauched when you were there or were you just a good girl?
Marx: I'm a goody-goody. I'm the person who sits in the back row, makes fun of the teacher, and secretly does the extra-credit work. I was also, remember I'm a late bloomer—it was my first job, I had been in graduate school in England. There might have been a lot more going on than Diet Coke. Maybe even real Coca-Cola. But I would have been the last to know it. I think I even lived once with an alcoholic and didn't even know it. For somebody who is a journalist, I can be awfully unobservant sometimes.
Slate: What else are you working on now?
Marx: I'm working on a musical about Mona Lisa. I'm going to be teaching screenwriting at Princeton in the fall.
Slate: When you teach screenwriting, are there certain screenplays that you always teach?
Marx: I've never done it before. I have a list of things. Everyone thinks that Chinatown is the best screenplay. I'm not sure it is. I'd like them to read the Graduate. I'd maybe want them to read Badlands, which I recently saw and thought was a perfect movie.
Slate: Finally, what's the best thing you've seen on the Internet this week?
Marx: This sounds like bragging, and I guess it is. The best thing I've seen is the trailer that Simon & Schuster did for my book. They did it so well. I didn't do it so I can say that.
This interview has been condensed and edited.